Bali is an island where monkeys frolic in the streets, lush palms line white sandy shores, and exotic fruit is always in arm’s reach. Although there is a common misconception that Bali is a country of its own, it’s actually an island province of Indonesia. But there’s certainly no confusion about Bali’s reputation as a tropical paradise.
Adding to its physical beauty, the nation’s locals are welcoming, gracious and rarely short of a beaming smile. It’s very easy to wile away hours getting luxurious massages, snorkelling above colourful reefs, and soaking up the sun on one of its many beaches.
One of the best parts about Bali is the proximity of its islands: a hop, skip and a jump across the water, you can get on a flight from Aussie shores and be there in under 7 hours. With its affordable accomodation and flights, there’s really no reason not to visit Bali at some stage in your travels. When that time comes, here are our top picks for your trip.
Where to visit
As the tourist capital of Bali, Kuta’s reputation of a smoggy, concrete sprawl, bustling with as many tourists as locals, isn’t altogether incorrect, but it certainly has an element of charm. You can’t help but be swept up in the tropical excitement and the buzzing nightlife. Home to cheap and cheerful accommodation, this is a great place to embrace upbeat Balinese life before escaping to the islands for a much more zen experience. Top spots for resort fun? Visit Kuta Beach Club or Rock Bar at Ayana Resort for memorable sunset views.
Lombok, contrary to popular opinion, is actually not part of Bali, but a separate state in Indonesia and just a short ferry ride away. This beautiful oasis won’t fall short of your paradise expectations with white sand and a tumbling green rainforest, surrounded by the smaller but equally lush Gili Islands. Check out the authentic Pasar Mandalika markets in Mantaram, where the tourists are few and the fresh produce plenty. Lombok has a quieter pace, which makes for a peaceful escape from the tourist bustle on Bali.
Considered a more sophisticated sister to Kuta, Seminyak maintains all of the rustic charm of a traditional Balinese village, while also offering an array of high-end boutiques, beach homeware stores and upscale restaurants. Browse designer boutiques like Biasa or SOUQ at Jalan Raya, offering world-class fashion with an authentic island twist.
Seminyak nightlife also has a more stylish vibe, with the iconic Potato Head beach club a long-standing Balinese institution, with its kooky design, luxe beachside lounges and extensive cocktail list making it a popular choice.
Visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to food, as Seminyak boasts some of the finest restaurants found in Bali. La Lucciola is a favourite, which overlooks Kerobokan Beach, but be mindful it’s not a very well-kept secret – make sure you book!
Away from the coastline and crowds, delve deep into the jungle and find the small village of Ubud. A welcome escape from the oppressive humidity, Ubud is home to serene temples and luxurious huts where you can escape the daily grind and truly wind down to the relaxing tempo of Bali’s natural surroundings.
Locals in Ubud are very welcoming, and none more so than the Balinese long-tailed monkeys that inhabit the thick forested area. Get up close and personal with them at the Sacred Monkey Forest of Pandangtegal – just be sure to hold onto your cameras!
Ubud is synonymous with world-class spas and retreats. Nestled in the lush surrounds of rice paddies are scores of centres promising to transform your skin, hair, physique and even your mental outlook. Cantika Zest offers treatments aided by products made on site, using locally sourced ingredients.
A surfers paradise, Uluwatu is home to some of the best beaches in the world. Popular favourites include Balangan Beach (although hard to get to) and Green Bowl Beach, both known for their crystal clear waters.
Bali is known as the ‘Island of the Gods’, and nowhere is this more evident than Uluwatu, with stunning temples everywhere you look. The absolute must-see of these is the Uluwatu Temple Complex. Set on a cliff-edge overlooking the ocean, it’s one of the oldest and most beautiful temple complexes in all of Bali; serving an important spiritual role of keeping the whole country safe from evil – not exactly a simple task!
Uluwatu is also famous for its spectacular sunsets. All beaches on the island offer their own jaw-dropping view point. A particularly good spot is Single Fin, a laid-back beach shack which will keep you well supplied with snacks as you sit back and settle into what will probably be one of your most memorable sunsets. Also consider catching the Kecak Dance performances at sundown, which will offer a fascinating insight into the rich Balinese dance culture.
Arts and culture
For days when the heat is too much, and you can’t imagine wearing anything more than your swimsuit: go to Waterbom Park Bali. A wild, water theme park, you can spend the day running up and sliding down any of the massive waterslides, swirling through the pipeline or bopping along in an inflatable donut. But with names like ‘The Boa Constrictor’ and ‘Green Vipers’, the adrenalin rush of the really wild rides is where it’s at. Do you dare?
Tanah Lot Temple
Almost otherworldly, the Tanah Lot rock formation sits serenely a few metres out from the shoreline in Tabanan, about 20km from Denpasar. Nothing more than a small cluster of bright green trees on a rock among the waves, the tiny island has been carved out into a remarkable temple. Said to trace back to the 16th century, the Tanah Lot Temple seems like something from Lord of The Rings, with its ancient stairs, doorways and caves carved right into the rock. It might be small, but in our world of reaching skyscrapers and concrete jungles, the Tanah Lot temple is a beautiful reminder of the Balinese connection and worship to the land.
Bali cuisine has recently started getting the attention it deserves, yet it still remains a delight to travellers – as the cuisine has not yet been done to death in Western food courts. With an emphasis on fresh, locally sourced ingredients and smack-in-the-mouth flavour, the fragrance of Balinese cooking will stay with you long after you leave.
Our top eats? There is no better way to get acquainted with Balinese cuisine than at a traditional market, and Gianyar Night Market in Ubud is one of the best. Feast on babi guling (pig roast) to nasi goreng (fried rice) for less than a price of coffee back home.
For fancier fare, drop in for a Balinese feast at Mozaic restaurant. You’ll enjoy a seemingly never-ending feast surrounded by masses of lush jungle and flaming torches.
It’s no coincidence that Bali is a tropical tourist hotspot: the weather is reliably sunny and warm all year round. As it sits close to the equator, the monsoon season might not drop in temperature, but will definitely bring the rain – so stick to the dry months of May to October. For those looking to catch a wave, this time is also considered the best for top surfing conditions.
Health and safety
At least four weeks prior to travel to Indonesia, ensure all routine vaccinations are up to date, including diphtheria and tetanus, whooping cough, polio, measles, mumps and rubella and chickenpox.
Consult your doctor on whether vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, typhoid, meningitis, rabies and Japanese encephalitis are recommended depending on your travel movements.
Malaria is still considered a risk in Indonesia, so ensure adequate clothing and repellent is carried.
It is recommended to speak with your doctor when planning your trip to find out which vaccinations you may need. Keep in mind that some vaccinations require more than one dose, so it is best to chat to your doctor well in advance of travel.
Bali is generally a safe country to visit, with highly populated tourist areas well policed.
Following the devastating Bali bombings of 2002 and Jakarta bombings of 2009, Indonesian tourism has suffered badly and efforts to revive it are ongoing. Keep up to date of government travel and local news announcement if planning travel to Indonesia.
Always keep a close eye on your belongings, as pickpockets do operate in the tourist areas, and strange as it sounds – watch out for monkeys! They are quick on their feet and will dart off with your bag before you see them grab it.
In case of an emergency while in Bali, phone 112 for police, fire and ambulance.
Always be on the safe side when you travel by taking out comprehensive travel insurance. Medibank Travel Insurance gives you overseas leading hospital, accident and medical evacuation cover while you’re travelling. And with our comprehensive plans, you’ll be protected for a host of other surprises like lost luggage, unforeseen cancellations and rental car insurance excess.*
Money and costs
The Indonesian currency is the rupiah, with notes in denominations of Rp500, Rp1000, Rp5000, Rp10,000, Rp20,000, Rp50,000 and Rp100,000 and coins to the value of Rp25, Rp50, Rp100, Rp500 and Rp1000.
Bali is a very affordable holiday destination, with accommodation, food and beverages significantly cheaper than Australia. It suits every budget, with a wide range of both backpacker and luxury resorts.
Cash is the predominant method of payment in Bali – so make sure you exchange your money either at the airport or in the main cities, as the rural areas will not have ATMs or money exchange offices.
Always be on the safe side when you travel by taking out comprehensive travel insurance. Medibank Travel Insurance gives you overseas leading hospital, accident and medical evacuation cover while you’re travelling. And with our comprehensive plans, you’ll have cover for a host of other surprises like lost luggage, unforeseen cancellations and rental car insurance excess.
* Important things you should know: Limits, sub-limits, exclusions and conditions apply. This is general advice only. Medibank Private Limited, ABN 47 080 890 259, an Authorised Representative, AR 286089, of Travel Insurance Partners Pty Limited, ABN 73 144 049 230 AFSL 360138, issues the insurance on behalf of the insurer. The insurer is Zurich Australian Insurance Limited ABN 13 000 296 640, AFSL 232507. Please consider your own needs and the Combined FSG/PDS available from Medibank stores or medibank.com.au/travel to decide if this product is right for you.